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Dave Barter aka ‘Sweary Dave’ will require no introduction to some of you but there will be others for whom Dave is unknown. For those people, I shall just say that, some years ago Dave stumbled upon bikepacking and the deep joy that sleeping beneath a hedge can bring. Since that time, he’s embraced the grubby world wholeheartedly which culminated in him (and Colin the Cutthroat) racing this years Tour Divide.

I caught up with him via the magic of the internet while he was still in the US and pestered him into answering some questions about his time and experiences out there – here you go.

This is what 2500 miles does to you.

1/ Tour Divide. Longterm goal or snap decision to enter?

The decision was a bit of both. It has always been on my radar as the type of riding and extended nature appeals to what I like to do. I had a bad year in 2018 with various things not going well in my work and personal life. I had failed twice that year on the HT550 as well and come home early from the BB300. I needed something to boost my personal self confidence. Tried to enter the HT550 again and did not get a place. Then to compound my woes my Dad fell ill and died shortly afterwards. I muted the idea with my wife and my Mum, they told me to GET ON WITH IT. So I did.

He didn’t have a beard when he left.

2/ I know you rode a Salsa Cutthroat – a bike ‘designed’ for the Tour Divide. Was it the perfect partner?

Believe the hype. I went for a custom build put together by Shona and Rich at Keep Pedaling cycles in Manchester. They built my wheels, covered the bike in Hope bearings and added USE short tri-barsto Carbon Cowchippers. This gave me a lot of hand position options and a great aero position for long road sections. The frame has a lot of give and I didn’t once think I needed suspension even on miles of washboard. It was the perfect bike and it’s staying in my man cave for a very long time.

3/ How aware were you (if at all) of the debates across the internet regarding filming and the potential demise of ITT ethics?

A bit, but we live in a race bubble and are mostly focused on the riders around us. It doesn’t really bother me TBH, so many other riders had “girlfriends in the country” or bale out options. I personally salute us international riders, in my case if it all went tits up I had no escape plan. All I saw in my bit of the pack were riders sitting well within the code of ethics whilst being really supportive to each other. Hope it was like that up the front.

4/ As spectators, we saw a lot of reports about trail conditions after Brush Mountain Lodge. What were they like when you got there?

I believe that’s not as flat as it looks.

We had to push through 4 feet of compact snow at the top of the pass. We were lucky as it was a hot day and the mud was gone. Still had a decent amount of type two fun that day and I relished overtaking Sofiane Sehili as he was dossing about at the lodge post scratch 😉

5/ You always appeared to be in good spirits but did you have any real low moments?

Every single day. First week I had many days thinking of quitting. It’s really tough mentally. I had to detach myself from home and talk to myself a lot. Worst moment was when I lent my bike against a rock to take a corny picture and it fell over bending the front rotor. The swearing was audible back home as I cursed my stupidity. Also a bad day of headwind between Hartsel and Salida had me questioning what the hell I was doing. Luckily I prepared for this and a quick bollocking followed by chocolate sorted me out.

6/ Did you develop any weird food cravings?

Vegetables, fruit, anything but Hostess Fruit Pies. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise the food is truly gopping low quality gas station shite. I probably had less than 10 decent meals in 20 days.

Uhm, let’s assume that’s a fruit pie shall we?

7/ Any items you didn’t take but wished you had?

 A leatherman, my Gerber failed first go when trying to fix disk brakes.

Could be anywhere in Wales but it’s not.

8/ Which was your favourite 100 miles?

Probably Abiquiu to Cuba. Real variety of riding and I was feeling strong. Even had some peanut butter mud but that didn’t last long. 

9/ Has the Tour Divide altered your perception and made the UK and its events feel small?

No, It’s just really different. If I could only have one I’d pick the UK.

10/ Now the important bit – apart from the one on your jersey, did you encounter any bears?

Yes, on the rail trail a mother and two cubs (black bears). Had to shout at them a long time to get them to get out of the way. Was also serenaded by coyotes outside of Pie Town one bivy and visited by rats in the night near Basin. 

The picture every TD rider wants.

11/  Aside from your special ‘black ops’ carbon fibre toothbrush, what was the best piece you kit you carried?

My Gore Pro jacket, worth every single expensive penny. 

Carbon toothbrush and Gore jacket. Dave’s secret TD weapons.

12/ Any plans to return?

I’ve made myself a video telling the future me not to do it. Sat here typing I know I’ll be ignoring Dave of the Past    

A very big thank you to Dave for taking the time to answer the questions, ta.


  1. dave says:

    Well done Dave, Color me impressed

  2. Bish_1961 says:

    What an achievement!
    Congratulations on completing such a difficult adventure race.
    My condolensces for your father's passing. Don't worry, they still stick around for a while.

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